A well-informed history of a powerful dynasty.



A vivid portrait of California’s land and people emerges from a sympathetic family biography.

Drawing on interviews, oral histories, and extensive archival sources, journalist and Pulitzer Prize–winning editor Pawel (The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 2014, etc.) examines California’s colorful, dramatic, and turbulent history through her biography of the ambitious and influential Browns, a family indelibly involved in the state’s fortunes since 1951, when Edmund G. “Pat” Brown (1905-1996) was sworn in as California’s attorney general. A few years later, as he considered running for governor, he extolled his great state: “To think that I will have some part, good or bad, in shaping its destiny is sobering.” A gregarious politician whose style of campaigning, his wife said, was “low comedy,” in 1959 Brown succeeded in becoming California’s 32nd governor, overseeing a period of exuberant economic and population expansion. His son, Jerry, however, seemed uninterested in following in his father’s footsteps; instead, he entered a Jesuit seminary to study for the priesthood, which he saw as “a path to public service—and an alternative to the commercial politics of his father’s world.” Yet after a few years, bristling against the mandate of “obedience to dogma” that quashed “his inquiring mind and spirit,” he renounced his calling. Politics inevitably drew him: After law school, he won a seat on the Los Angeles school board; a year and a half later, he won election as secretary of state. In 1975 he became the 34th—and youngest—governor of California. Although Pawel chronicles the political career of Pat Brown’s daughter Kathleen, who served as California State Treasurer, Jerry takes center stage for much of the book, as the author recounts his “refreshing” candor and unconventional leadership during his first two terms as governor, earning him the epithet of “Governor Moonbeam”; his years of soul-searching and recalibration after he was defeated in tries for the presidency; his return as defiant and spirited mayor of Oakland and, in 2010, to statewide power as California’s 39th—and oldest—governor.

A well-informed history of a powerful dynasty.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63286-733-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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